Not only is tempered enthusiasm for training a healthier approach than an obsessive enthusiasm, it actually ends up over the long term in being more productive. I do not want you to avoid obsessive enthusiasm just because it creates a seriously imbalanced life.
I want you to avoid obsessive interest because only then will you actually have the chance to achieve your natural physique and strength potential.
I know a lot about an obsessive interest in bodybuilding. I had one for several years. Though I never went quite all the way, to using steroids and other muscle-building drugs, I was about as obsessed as you can be in all other respects. I never ruined my health by drug abuse, but I certainly damaged my body as a result of doing many things wrong.
As a teenager I cut myself off from everything I thought would have a negative effect on my bodybuilding. I became a recluse. I became antisocial. I enclosed myself in a bodybuilding shell. I lost interest in my academic studies. I swallowed all the training and dietary nonsense that abounded at that time (about 20 years ago).
I was very gullible and knew of no one who could keep me on the training straight and narrow. I was at the mercy of whatever literature I found, but could not distinguish between good and poor instruction. If it was in print somewhere, I believed it.
Though I had the opportunity to use muscle-building drugs, I resisted. Had I not had the character and discipline to resist the temptation to take bodybuilding drugs, I may have totally destroyed myself.
I had no time for anyone who talked or wrote about realistic goals, or the dangers of certain exercises and specific exercise techniques, or the need to be prudent with intensity enhancers.
I labelled those people as wimps and underachievers. Who wanted to be conservative? Who was interested in being realistic? I wanted to be huge!
Being very young at the time, I could apparently get away with harmful exercises, techniques, and abuse of intensity enhancers, at least over the short term. So I continued with those harmful practices. Those dangerous practices included gross overtraining plus squatting with my heels raised on a board, doing machine hack squats, squatting with the bar too high on my shoulders, bench pressing with a very wide grip, bench pressing to my upper chest, doing deep flyes, doing lying and standing triceps extensions, performing stiff-legged deadlifts with an exaggerated full range of motion, and doing specific cheating movements.
Some of those techniques came to haunt me a few years later, when knee and back problems permanently and seriously limited my training.
Had I listened to those wimps who urged a conservative approach to training, and had I listened more to my own body, then I would not have caused the long-term damage I did. Today I promote a conservative approach to training in general, and to exercise selection and technique in particular. Experience has taught me that the conservative approach is not only the safest way, it is actually the most productive, over the long term.
The conservative approach is not just limited to exercise selection and technique. It also concerns exercise program design. Most people train too much. Not only is this counterproductive for short-term results, it produces the overtraining that wears your body down and causes long-term structural problems.
But all this assumes that you actually keep training over the long term. An obsession leads to burnout because it produces poor results for most people. It causes so much frustration that most people give up training after a year or few.
When you are obsessed you tend to discard reason and intelligence, and become all passion and emotion. This leads to gullibility and following poor training programs, skewed diets, bad exercises, and destructive ways of performing exercises that should be safe and super productive. This is precisely what happened to me. I trained too much (and thus wasted a big chunk of my life), followed skewed diets, used harmful exercises, and when I did use the best exercises I often used perverted and destructive variations.
Had this obsessive interest produced a great physique, then maybe I could argue that the price was worth paying. I suffered so much in the quest for a great physique, but did not get what I thought would make all the dedication worthwhile.
When it finally dawned on me that after years of rabid dedication I did not have the physique that I had targeted, I was devastated. To invest so much into one target, and then fail to get to that target, produces extreme frustration and disappointment.
You might be targeting 20-inch arms, for example. So you give total dedication to achieving those mighty arms. What will happen is that you will follow the training routines of men who have extraordinary genetic advantages.
What worked for them will not work for you, especially when their great natural advantages are exaggerated by the use of drugs. You will not build 20-inch arms, or 19-inch arms, or even 18-inch arms. Typical trainees will not even develop 15-inch arms from using conventional training methods.
The Best Way
So much for doing things in the wrong way. What you want to know is how to do things the right way. The right way does not mean becoming obsessed. It means being dedicated but while remaining critical, discriminating, and keeping a balanced approach that does not neglect the more serious aspects of your life.
How should I have trained when I was in my teens and twenties? How could I have set about achieving my bodybuilding potential but without sacrificing important aspects of my life? What lessons do I have to offer you?
I have been writing about these lessons in HARDGAINER for over eight years, and in other magazines for even longer, and in my books.
Learn the lessons and then you can get on with making the most of the magnificent benefits of weight training, but without doing yourself any short-term or long-term damage. You can then keep training for a lifetime without having to spend time training around injuries and joint problems. Then you can continue to train on the most important exercises. You will not have to drop the most productive exercises.
Learn these lessons now or else you will go the same way that I did, and only learn the hard way. But by the time you learn that way you will have done enough damage to your body to make you unable to train as you need to in order to achieve and then maintain your full physique and/or strength potential.
Train hard, but do not overtrain. Use simple routines and train no more often than three times a week. But never train the same exercise or body part three times per week—once per week, or twice at the most, is more than enough.
Focus mostly on the big basic exercises. Choose only safe exercises, and always use impeccable form. Be super dedicated and serious about your training, but do not neglect the more important aspects of your life health, education, family responsibilities, and a balanced approach to life. This is the dedication you need.
In this way you will be securely on the best program to achieve your full physique and/or strength potential, and you will not have compromised on the rest of your life. Then training will have enriched your life rather than robbed you of a big chunk of it, and perhaps left you with permanent scars.